, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 161-173
Date: 03 Dec 2010

Why Images?

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Abstract

Given that many imaging technologies in biology and medicine are non-optical and generate data that is essentially numerical, it is a striking feature of these technologies that the data generated using them are most frequently displayed in the form of semi-naturalistic, photograph-like images. In this paper, I claim that three factors underlie this: (1) historical preferences, (2) the rhetorical power of images, and (3) the cognitive accessibility of data presented in the form of images. The third of these can be argued to provide an epistemic advantage to images, but I will further argue that this is often misleading and that images can in many cases be less informative than the corresponding mathematical data.